The French Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Groupe Caisse d’Epargne have joined forces to support public investment for the construction or refurbishment of public buildings as part of the effort to combat global warming and improve the management of the natural and urban environment.

A declaration of intent involving EUR 350 million was signed in Paris on 16 October 2007 by Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President, and Charles Milhaud, Chairman of the Management Board of Caisse Nationale des Caisses d’Epargne (CNCE). This declaration comes under the “Haute Qualité Energie Environnement” (HQEE) programme, which was designed in collaboration with ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie).

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the signatory countries, which include France, undertook to limit greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by reducing the energy consumption of buildings, which account for nearly a quarter of CO2 production.

The aim of the “Haute Qualité Energie Environnement” programme is to support, throughout France, the financing of construction projects and refurbishment of public buildings in accordance with energy efficiency and environmental standards that are more stringent than those currently in force (Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE) – high environmental quality; Haute Performance Energétique (HPE) – high energy performance; Très Haute Performance Energétique (THPE) – very high energy performance; and Bâtiment basse consommation (BBC) – Low Consumption Building)). The French Government has set itself the objective of having 50% of its buildings constructed to HPE standards by 2008. ADEME has already identified some 400 projects that come under this approach.

The HQEE Programme will fund the construction and refurbishment of public buildings such as schools and colleges, crèches, administrative buildings, sports and leisure centres, and community centres covered by this initiative.

This programme will be implemented in partnership with Groupe Caisse d’Epargne, via its Caisse d’Epargne and Crédit Foncier networks. For each project identified, the Group will propose to the promoters, taking account of the backing from EIB resources, loans tailored to their specific requirements and favourable financial terms, optimised from the point of view of interest rates and repayment periods.

The programme, the first of its type in Europe for the EIB, is in line with the European Union’s policies on climate and energy (adopted by the March 2007 European Council), the environment and sustainable development. These European objectives underpin the EIB’s priorities and serve to justify its lending operations. The programme will speed up implementation of the French Climate Plan, the objectives of the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” (public consultation process concerning the environment) and the relevant EU Directive.